But it’s still a fascinating story. Did you know that old McDonald’s Monopoly game was totally corrupt and broken? An insider was stealing the million dollar instant winner tokens, and passing them along to associates who’d cash them in and kickback thousands of dollars to the thief. “Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, and drug traffickers won almost every prize for 12 years”. Whoa. My family played the game, casually and intermittently — this was happening during the years my kids insisted on going to McDonald’s. And now I learn there was never any chance I was going to get lucky and become a millionaire.
You might argue that this is just the actions of one rogue crook, but there were other ways the game was rigged by the officials running it.
During that 1995 prize draw, something happened that would change the game. According to Jacobson, when the computerized prize draw selected a factory location in Canada, Simon Marketing executives re-ran the program until it chose an area in the USA. Jacobson claimed he was ordered to ensure that no high-level prizes ever reached the Great White North.
Jacobson and many of his associates were eventually caught, arrested, and got some short prison sentences and massive fines. But the woes of McDonald’s promotion didn’t end there.
And when lady luck regained control of the McDonald’s competitions, she handed winning tickets to a man wearing a full Pizza Hut uniform; a Taco Bell owner; and a former homeless man who was later charged with beating up his fiancée–a PR nightmare.
You know, this is what everyone should have expected when you build a promotional contest around a terrible game that celebrates the worst of greed and selfishness — you’re going to find it hijacked by looters within, and if it were really a fair contest, you’d find that sometimes people outside your ideological group would win. And what is the game of Monopoly but a transparent metaphor for the evils of capitalism?